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Old 05-02-2010, 08:36 AM   #1
Never Enough Road OP
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Central American Road Conquest: Portland to Panama

Hello All,

I'm currently riding with my dad through Central America to Panama City. i've been keeping a blog at www.neverenoughroad.com. Feel free to go check it out, but I decided I'd copy it here too to pique your interest. Hope you like.
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:46 AM   #2
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Monday, April 12

Dad and I on our first ride together:



About two weeks ago I was sitting in a guesthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I had spent the previous three months kickboxing in Thailand and Cambodia and was gearing up for one last adventure before coming home- a motorcycle ride across a thousand miles of Vietnamese mountains and coastline to the northern capital of Hanoi. I was excited to conquer some foreign road, but at the same time I was getting anxious to return home. Vagabonding through Asia was fun but I was feeling like it was time to be a productive member of society for a change.

The moment I decided to put my restless ways behind me, though, fate decided to test my resolve. My dad had just accepted a job in Panama on the canal expansion project, and while his company had nearly every base covered they didn't have any transportation arranged for him. “No problem,” he told them, “I've got it covered.” My dad is obsessed with motorcycles- and is responsible for my own obsession- so he immediately schemed up a three thousand mile ride from his home in Las Vegas to his new place in Panama City. He wanted me to join him.

I initially battled guilt over my good fortune and charmed life, and fear of telling my mom that responsible life decisions would have to wait longer still while I chased another adventure, but ultimately the dream of smoking Cuban cigars in Spanish courtyards and battling roving motorcycle bandit-gangs across Latin America won out. Plus, over the next couple of days my Vietnam trip would quickly erode into a colossal mishap, leading me to defeatedly crawl home earlier than expected. I was unfulfilled, and the Panama ride would fill that motorcycle-shaped hole that all men have in their chests.

So, as I type this now I'm making last minute preparations. Tomorrow I'll leave Portland and head to my uncle’s house in Reno. Wednesday I'll make it to Vegas to meet up with my dad. We're doing an Appleseed Project in Boulder City to make up for all the trigger time we're going to miss, then on the 21st we're south bound! Follow along if you like and feel free to leave comments. Hasta luego amigos!
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Old 05-02-2010, 08:56 AM   #3
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Phoenix, AZ, 4/22/10



After a week in Vegas we finally hit the road! I love riding motorcycles and I hate Las Vegas so I was excited to jump back in the saddle at last and begin the journey. Todayís destination was Phoenix, Arizona. The ride was fairly short and straightforward, but there were a few highlights.

Leaving Nevada and entering into Arizona, we crossed over the Hoover Dam. It was very impressive. I was hoping to get some cool pictures with the bikes, but we parked in the wrong dam spot and a dam cop chased us away. I managed to snap a few quick pics though:








From Vegas we got rained on for most of the way to Kingman, Arizona. There we stopped at Mr. Díz Route 66 Diner for lunch.




We got there at the same time as a huge crew of Harley riders. There must have been thirty or forty of them, all with chaps, vests, skull caps, the whole nine yards. They looked like your typical bikers....except they were from Spain!




Our family comes from a region called the Basque Country which lies partially in Spain, partially in France (although we were there first!) and like all true Bascos weíre extremely proud. I wear a Basque flag patch on the shoulder of my riding jacket.




While we were sitting down at our table, one of the ladies in the group came over to us, pointed to my flag, and said ďYouíre Basque?! Me too!Ē We were all extremely excited to have met fellow Basques, and even though we could hardly communicate with one another we had a good time talking about how great it is to be Basque. Youíll have to take my word for it; it feels amazing.




After lunch we decided to try to escape the cold and ride to Phoenix as fast as possible. The weather was uncomfortable but tolerable, but after we passed an SUV parked upside down on its roof in the middle of the road, we realized it was dangerous too. Fortunately the weather soon began to break, and by about 1:00 it was clear and we were only a couple hours from Phoenix. We decided to do some exploring, so we ducked off of Highway 93 and headed towards Prescott. It turned out to be the second best part of the day because we found ourselves tearing up some great motorcycle roads. Twisties and cactuses as far as the eye could see. There were a few stretches that felt like riding on a roller coaster.

Now weíre relaxing in the hotel and looking forward to another good (hopefully drier!) day of riding tomorrow

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Old 05-02-2010, 03:00 PM   #4
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Fantastic guys. Some great pics on your blog. Great architecture in those towns you went to! Well done.
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Old 05-02-2010, 09:52 PM   #5
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:04 PM   #6
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Las Cruces, NM, 4/23/10

Boring blog post today, sorry. We had an uneventful ride through Arizona and New Mexico. Iíve heard some people call this beautiful country and to be honest, with the mountains in the background and scattered greenery, I wouldnít fault someone whoís never been to the Northwest for mistaking this for beauty.

Since I donít have much to report Iíll answer a question a few people have asked me. Never Enough Road is a song by one of my favorite metal bands, Demiricous. The song kicks ass and it seems like a good motorcycle philosophy, so I adopted it as my personal riding motto.

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Old 05-02-2010, 11:38 PM   #7
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Sonora, TX, 4/24/10

Anyone who has ever said ďGod bless TexasĒ has never ridden a motorcycle across the western half of this state. To be fair, itís not as bad as I remembered it; I drove through here in 2008 with my friend Matt and took this picture:




A slight exaggeration, but not by much. We drove through El Paso during a dust storm. For those of you who actually come from inhabitable parts of the country and donít know what a dust storm is, itís when a cloud of dirt descends on the city so you canít see or breath. And it kills the first-born of every household. That was late summer, though, and now itís only the end of April so the land isnít quite as dry. Itís still bleak and soul-crushing, but greener. I kid obviously, but the point is that Highway 10 cuts straight through west Texas for hundreds of miles with hardly a bend in the road. Not exactly thrilling motorcycle terrain.

We stopped in Fort Stockton to have lunch at Dairy Queen (donít criticize, it looked like the most sanitary choice) and noticed two nice Corvettes with racing numbers parked in front. There were three guys chatting inside wearing racing hats and jackets, so I asked them if they were part of some kind of rally. As it turns out, they were racing in the Big Bend Open, a 130 mile roundtrip race from Fort Stockton to Sanderson and back. There were 150 cars in the race. The highest clocked speed of the event was 197mph. We ended up meeting several more drivers and seeing lots of sweet cars. These two guys were particularly funny. After averaging 120mph for the whole race and hitting a top speed of 140, it was apparent they were going to come in last place, so they dropped out and got some ice cream instead.






A few hours later we made a pit stop in Ozona to see the Davy Crockett monument. I donít know much about the man (something about planting appleseeds and riding a blue ox?), but figured it was worth a look considering heís an American legend and has his own song. Apparently he was a congressman from Tennessee and died while fighting at the Alamo. Somehow I donít think David Wu or Ron Wyden would have been up on that wall. Anyways, it was a cool monument and a nice remembrance of a true American hero. Iím kind of a redneck though so big statues of guys with rifles gets me fired up.




Sonora was the last stop of the day. As we were checking into the hotel we met a guy in the parking lot named Jerry Fielstra. At first he just seemed like a chatty traveler, but Jerry ended up being extremely interesting to talk to. He had all kinds of crazy experiences to share. He had served in the Navy in Panama, done construction work in Jamaica, helped set up an orphanage in Ecuador, nearly gotten killed several times in several creative ways in northern Canada, and traveled just about everywhere you could think of. He had stories about run-ins with mercenaries, gangsters, cannibals, and headhunters. Compared to Jerry, I feel like a poser for keeping a blog of this motorcycle ride. Iím sure his life would make for one heck of a good book. If youíre interested, you can check out Jerry and his orphanage at www.childrensministriesinc.com



Sorry for looking like a total goober in this picture, Jerry.

Tomorrow weíve got a short ride to Austin. There weíll meet up with a motorcycle crew that Dad met through Horizons Unlimited, an adventure motorcycling website. Mark and his buddies were planning a ride down to Cholula, Mexico, so weíll tag along with them on the first leg of our excursion into Latin America, just to get our feet wet and make sure we donít get murdered by a Mexican drug cartel. Iím pretty sure Iím joking.
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Old 05-02-2010, 11:51 PM   #8
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Austin, TX, 4/25/10

This morning we had a short but enjoyable ride from Sonora to Austin. East of Sonora the monotony finally started to break. The scenery became greener and more varied, and more importantly the road started to gain some life so we were once again able to do some actual riding as opposed to just sitting on top of the bikes.

In the early afternoon we drove through Fredericksburg, Texas, a picturesque little town along Highway 290. At first I was really impressed with the well-preserved historic buildings and quintessential American main street.










The more I looked around though I realized the heinous truth: this was a womanís Disneyland, a kind of amusement park that fills up on the weekends with wives dragging their husbands along to go antiquing and wine tasting. Behind the well-manicured planter boxes and carefully-arranged window displays was sorrow and despair. On Sundays, this is where football comes to die.

This is the old county jail. For married men all across central Texas, this is the true face of Fredericksburg:




The town wasnít a complete Estrogen Stronghold, though; we saw countless Harleys, although most of those suckers were riding two-up. Apparently this is where all the cool kids park (read: I feel left out because I donít wear leather):




We also saw this old monument to all of the men from Fredericksburg who fought overseas. Today the population of the town isnít even ten thousand so you can imagine how big it was in the forties, yet there are nearly fifty names listed under WWII.Ē (quirky side-note: nearly ten percent of those names are ďElgin.Ē)




A little after two oíclock we rolled into Austin, finishing the first leg of our trip. We checked into our hotel and by three we were at Mark and Suzanneís house, where we also met up with Joe and Juanita, and Jim. Along with one last rider, JD, this would be our touring group to Mexico. Or as I prefer to call it, my first biker gang. Maybe we can agree on some cool gang colors and a secret handshake. I hear chicks dick dangerous guys.

Jim is from Ohio, Joe and Juanita are from California, and weíre obviously from the Great Northwest, so Mark and Suzanne gave us all a proper Texas Welcome and took us to the Salt Lick, the Stone Cold Steve Austin of barbecue restaurants. Jim
accurately stated ďCome for the barbecue, stay for the angioplasty.Ē The coup de grace: this place lets you bring your own beer. It was a lot of fun getting to meet everyone and I really look forward to our adventure ahead.





Tomorrow weíll rendezvous at Mark and Suzanneís place bright and early at 7:00, then make a mad dash for the border!
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Old 05-03-2010, 12:03 AM   #9
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Ciudad de Victoria, Mexico, 4/26/10



Today kicked off the second leg of the Portland to Panama trip, and the real adventure finally began as we crossed into Mexico! Itís funny how crossing an invisible line suddenly brings you into a new world. The scenery doesnít magically change, but I was still elated to be riding in new place. For a while we were riding parallel to the tall, barb-wired fence that separates our countries, and it was strange looking north and thinking that home was on the other side.

As exciting as it was, we didnít have too much time to be tourists; the day was all about making miles. We left Markís house at 7:00 this morning and arrived 575 miles later at our hotel in Victoria around 11:00. I think the idea was that the further we got from the border the less chance we had of getting robbed or having our heads chopped off.

The border crossing was much less painless than I anticipated. I thought that bringing bikes across the border would make the process extra complicated, but it was a cakewalk. The checkpoint had a bunch of soldiers packing G3ís. Iím already homesick for my Second Amendment and thought about talking shop with the guys, but Iíve learned that showing an interest in soldiersí weapons in other countries is generally a bad idea. They also had a very intimidating/sweet armored vehicle parked at the customs checkpoint. There were two young guys sitting in the hatches on top. I showed them my camera and asked ďpuedo?Ē while making a picture-taking gesture. The guy on the machine gun gave me a thumbs up, then they both dropped into the cab and only popped back up after I had finished with the pictures. I assume that if their true identities were widely known the drug cartels would hunt them down or target their families to make an example for other would be crimefighters. Then again I had a lot of alone time on the bike today to dream up that scenario; maybe they were just ugly dudes.




The point of no return. But would we want to?!




Mom asked if I was going to pack on the trip...




For lunch we stopped in a little town called Cadereyta. It had a really cool square in the middle of town where we stretched our legs and tried to cool down (guess what the weather is like here).




Allow me to be a raging heterosexual for a moment: I was surprised at how many major babes I saw. I donít mean to complain, but it actually made me a little resentful. We have a large Hispanic population in my area but Iíve never seen this many cuties in Newberg. My new idea for immigration reform: get these babes up north ASAP!


Dad making a new friend. This guy came up and said ďAmericans?! I used to live in Fresno!Ē



Before we left Vegas, Dad installed alarms on our bikes. Theyíre designed so that if the angle of the bike changes- for example you have it leaned up against the kickstand and someone stands it up to wheel it away- a heinous siren goes off. Somewhere along the road Dadís system got totally screwed. We learned this the hilarious way. Around 9:00pm we started to pass through towns and villages with greater frequency. While we were on the open road we spread out from one another, but when we got amongst the slower-movie city traffic we would naturally bunch up. As we came into one town Dad came up alongside me and his alarm was shrieking frantically. It was blaring away but Dad just kept looking forward as if nothing was wrong. He had his XM radio cranked and had no idea what was going on. I thought about trying to pull over to tell him what was going on, but I didnít want to risk losing the group since we were the tail guard. Plus it was just too funny. Twelve miles later we came to another town and once again Dadís bike approached mine with the alarm blaring. This time dogs started barking as he passed through town. This went on for nearly thirty miles. We ended up solving the problem later on, but not before a good laugh at Dadís expense.

After a long day of riding we finally reached the hotel around 11:00 and were all ready for bed right away. I was tired, but couldnít pass up the opportunity to watch Braveheart in Spanish for a little while. ďLiberdad!!!Ē Tomorrow is a low-mileage day so weíll get to soak up Mexico a little.
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Old 05-03-2010, 04:30 PM   #10
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Xilitla, Mexico, 4/27/10

Me and Dad at the Tropic of Cancer. The magnificence of this landmark really drives home the importance of the moment.




When we woke up this morning we found more sexy ladies lined up in front of our hotel, just waiting for us:




After breakfast we set off for a small mountain town called Xilitla (hill-eat-luh, I think). The ride there was short but beautiful. I didnít take many pictures because I didnít want to break off from the pack every time I saw something pretty, but Deathwish J.D., the Harley rider, has a knack for snapping pics while heís riding so Iíll just steal his when I get the chance and post them later.




To get to Xilitla, we followed a small two-lane road that carved its way through some killer landscapes: mountain vistas, tunnel-like forest roads, and volcano-dotted canyons. About twenty or thirty miles out we began climbing towards the town. Xilitla sits high up in the mountains at the end of a long canyon, so to get there we had to wind our way upwards on one side, giving us beautiful views the whole way of the opposite side and the land below. The road itself was one of the most fun I think Iíve ever ridden.

Once we arrived in Xilitla, we checked into our hotel, El Castillo. In the 1940ís, an English artist named Edward James moved to Xilitla. He was big into the surrealist movement- probably a pretty colorful character- so the remoteness of Xilitla gave him the freedom to be himself. El Castillo is a home that he helped build that has since been converted to a hotel. His influence can be seen everywhere in the building and itís probably the most unique place Iíve ever stayed. There are ladders that lead to rooftop lookouts, a maze-like floorplan, eclectic art and decorations, and breathtaking views all around (double entendre, Joe).




















Although Edward James gets most of the credit for the architecture, a local guy named Plutarco Gastelum actually did most of the legwork. Today, his daughter and grandkids run the hotel. They were so friendly and sincere, they really helped make the experience what it was (plus I kind of have a crush on the daughter).

After we checked in, we went to Las Pozas, the nearby gardens for which both Edward James and Xilitla are best known. I had heard vague descriptions of a ďsculpture garden,Ē so I was expecting a park with some hippy lawn-art. In reality it was one of the most amazing places Iíve ever been. If there were synonyms for enchanting and wondrous that didnít sound totally gay, I would use them to describe Las Pozas. The place felt like a real life Alice in Wonderland.




















I had a bit of a revelation today. When it comes to traveling, we always have our sights set on far away places. I have lots of friends who have traveled in Europe and Asia, but I donít think Iíve ever heard of anyone backpacking or studying abroad in Mexico. Instead, when it comes to Mexico we think of immigration. Yet today has been one of the best traveling experiences out of any place Iíve ever been. Itís a shame that this kind of experience can be had so close to home yet I never knew it was here.

Bonus picture: check out this Luche Libre (like WWE wrestling) poster. Iím bummed I missed my chance to see Violento Jack, Chessman, and Mini Charly Manson all on the same card.



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Old 05-03-2010, 04:39 PM   #11
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Puebla, Mexico, 4/28/10



Today was both the best and worst day of riding of my life. It was a roller coaster ride in every sense of the word. I didnít take many pictures because I was busy trying to not die for most of the day. Where to even begin...

We left around 9:00 and headed towards Highway 105. We had to backtrack through a lot of the same beautiful scenery as yesterday which was a great way to start the day. To hook up with the highway we had to take what, according to the map, looked to be a short section of rural road. It turned out to be the transportation equivalent of a swift quick in the pills: not very much fun at all.

The first half was infested with topes (toe-pays, I think). The tope is like a speedbump, but all hopped up on crystal meth to the point where it takes 13 cops with tazers to bring it down. Theyíre erratically placed, often come with no warning, and are so abrupt that they damn near tear a whole in the bottom of your bike. We literally hit hundreds of them over the course of the day, and I started worrying that I might put a whole in the oil pan or damage the exhaust pipe. A few times I was caught by surprise going way to fast and thought I might come off. Major PITA and in my opinion there is no reason for them whatsoever.

The second half of the road was torn up for road construction. The graveled surface sucked but it was manageable, but the heat combined with the crawling pace of one-lane traffic was killer. We were stuck idling along at walking pace for hours.

After plodding along for longer than we should have, we finally emerged in a large town called Huejutla where we would meet up with Highway 105. We were way behind schedule, but over lunch we hypothesized that once we got on the highway weíd be able to open up on the throttle and make up for lost time. After all, the map made it look like 105 was a major road. Never have seven people been so wrong.

Highway 105 turned out to be an extremely windy mountain road. It snaked its way along these cliff-like ledges, climbing higher and higher. The mountains were covered in thick jungle and shrouded in heavy mist. Around every turn we had beautiful views of towering jungle peaks ahead veiled in clouds. In spots there were vines hanging into the road. I felt like Indiana Jones carving my way upwards.

The exhilaration didnít last long as we soon found ourselves inside the same clouds that we had just been marveling. As our elevation increased, the visibility inversely decreased to the point that I could barely see Jim who was riding only three or four bike-lengths in front of me. We were inching forwards at 15mph for most of the time, praying that we wouldnít fall off the side of the cliff. There were moments when I wasnít watching the road ahead of me, but instead looking at the white line down by my foot. Trucks would materialize thirty feet in front of us coming in the opposite direction. It was hair-raising.

When we finally dropped low enough in altitude to clear the clouds, Dad, Jim and I realized that we had gotten separated from the rest of the group. We pulled off at a gas station and debated whether to risk more bad weather and the waning daylight or get a hotel for the night. We decided to press on, and fortunately soon came across the rest of the group parked at an intersection waiting for us. Mark had parked on such a steep grade that he couldnít get his Beemer off the sidestand, so as the others took off I helped him right the bike. Well, his hazards had been on for so long that now his battery was dead. Luckily he was able to do a compression start and get it running, but after the frustration of the crummy roads in the morning and the nerve-racking visibility of the mountain roads, it was unneeded drama.

Mark and I were now speeding towards Pachuca, hoping to catch up to the others. Just as we had steadily climbed up towards these skyscraping peaks, now we began to wind downwards. Whereas before our field of view was dominated by the peaks above, coming down gave us sweeping vistas of the land ahead of us. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. I canít even describe how remarkable the lush green slopes and cavernous valleys were. There were moments where I was so blown away that I involuntarily pumped my fist in the air and gave a triumphant battle cry. It may sound dorky, but having that engine screaming beneath you while the magnificence of Godís creation unfolds before you makes your heart race. At one point, after being stuck in that claustrophobic mist for hours, the sun finally broke through the clouds and a column of light brilliantly lit up a towering rock face in front of me. It was a near-spiritual experience.

After we finally got off the mountains, we found ourselves in a new paradise. We drove for maybe an hour through a dryer landscape covered in massive cactuses and green shrubbery. There were open expanses withe tabletop hills and dry riverbeds. It was like a potent version of the American Southwest. We raced across a vast basin that let us finally let out the reigns on our bikes. I had some heavy metal blaring in the earphones and the throttle pinned. What did man do before motorcycles?!

Finally, a little after dark, we arrived in Pachuca. We had gotten separated on several occasions but managed to somehow miraculously wind up at the same spot on the side of the road on the outskirts of town. Jim wasnít comfortable riding in the dark- I donít blame him, this trip is the first time Iíve broken my own rule of riding at night- so he decided to get a hotel room for the night. Dad and I were conflicted about leaving Jim alone, but decided to press on with the rest of the group because A) we had already paid for the hotel and B) felt like sticking with Mark would be the best bet for navigating the difficult directions. Little good that did!

On the other side of town the remaining five of us couldnít figure out how to get on the highway that would lead us to Puebla. We pulled off on the shoulder and looked at the map in the light of Dadís headlights. With a rough idea of how to proceed, we all took off, Dad and I bringing up the rear. We sped off single file, but when it was Dadís turn he sat stationary. He began turning his bike around to point it downhill, against traffic. I looked at him completely bewildered. ďCompression start,Ē he said. I was in disbelief. It was pitch dark, we were completely lost, we just got split from the group yet again, and we had a dead battery. I watched Dadís bikeís taillights roll down the hill. They disappeared out of sight around a bend, but no headlights came back up. It wasnít working.

We ended up setting up a makeshift shop in a bus stop to work on the bike. We spent more than an hour trying anything we could think of to get it to run. Keep in mind that itís pitch black and weíre in the outskirts of some Mexican town we donít know. I wonít explain every detail, but it was demoralizing and a little draining as we increasingly felt like it was a lost cause.




We tried the starter for the umpteenth time, and suddenly and inexplicably engine decided to turn over. I canít explain how elated we were. We victoriously loaded up the gear and readied to take off. As Dad pulled ahead one of his panniers clipped my bike, knocking it over. On impact the engine died, and when we picked it up and hit the starter the engine wouldnít turn over. We looked at one another in disbelief. I think we were so drained that we had no energy left to feel angry, or anything it all. We were completely stunned. Luckily it fired up after a few minuteís wait, and we were able to finally set off for Puebla where we would stay for the night. Of course we got lost along the way and had to ask some cops for directions.

By the time we finally checked into the hotel we had endured killer speedbumps, hideous roads, deadly visibility, two dead batteries, getting repeatedly lost and separated, the meltdown of our group, and a whole host of constant frustrations. It definitely wasnít a leisure ride, but to have encountered so many obstacles and overcome them all was an energizing feeling. As nerve-racking as most of the day had been, from the moment the mountain fog dissipated to our arrival in Pachuca was the most thrilling riding Iíve ever done. It made up for all the rest ten-fold. Having said all that, letís hope for some uneventful riding days ahead!
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Old 05-03-2010, 07:09 PM   #12
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Excellente!

Great writing and pics. Thanks!

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Old 05-07-2010, 02:14 PM   #13
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I'm in. Enjoying your report, hope you can get the battery issues sorted out.
Those photos of the sculpture gardens are great, I bet they're really impressive in person.
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Old 05-07-2010, 04:31 PM   #14
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Sounds like the beginnings of an epic adventure...keep us posted and Godspeed!
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